Friday, 30 May 2014

Backed Up Or Hacked Off?

One of the problems of continually changing your operating system is remembering what software and applications to restore. You may recall that back in 2011 I settled on syncing to an encrypted pen-drive using GRSYNC as my strategy: now that I'm storing financial data in GnuCash, I guess it's time for a new backup.

This means installing both Grsync & EncFS. No problem in Mint16: you can use the software manager (Menu > Administration > Software Manager) or Synaptic for both packages!

I really must remember to backup more frequently, after all, disaster is only one upgrade away!

Sources & References:

Monday, 26 May 2014

GnuCash - Creating New Accounts/Categories

I've seen a number of questions online asking how to create new expense categories in GnuCash. The question itself demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how basic bookkeeping works: an expense category is really nothing more (and nothing less!) than an account where cash values are allocated as spent. Think of a category as a bucket or container for certain types of expenditure: although the cash is gone, the category is a record of where it went.

Once you've understood this principle, creating your new category should be obvious: create a new account under the Expenses parent. Suppose that we want to create a new expense category called "Household" to differentiate non-perishable household items from perishable items (food!):

From the Accounts page, click on the Create as new account icon or (from the main menu), select Actions & New Account to summon the New Account dialog box.

Once the dialog appears, we can give it a name (in this case, Household) and a description. We also need to select Expense as the account type and Expenses as the parent type.

When you click OK your new account will be created and will appear in the account list under Expenses.

Now when you enter a transaction and click on the the transfer type, the new account will appear in the list as an option.

The good news is that this category will be reportable but just be cautious about adding too much granularity: you may end up not seeing the wood for the trees.

Sources & References:

  • None

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Driving Backwards - Fixing Graphics Performance In Mint 16

I've enjoyed playing around with Mint 16, it's particularly nice to have a customizable desktop that you really can make your own. One of my favourite applications of distros past is Cairo Dock - I love the groovy animations and funky sound effects: it's been a real blast having it back! However, I have noticed some problems with the overlay graphics; when a window overlaps the dock, the pop-up menus and icons become washed out and visually pretty horrible.

Fortunately, it's an easy fix to revert to the bundled driver and fix the graphics performance:

From the menu button on your Taskbar, select Administration and then Driver Management - input your password at the authentication dialog.

In the Driver Manager (as superuser) dialog, select the xserver-xorg-video-nouveau option, click Apply changes, & (once the driver has downloaded & installed) reboot.

When you reboot, things should have returned to normal. However, you may see a dialog at startup advising you to turn on OpenGL: check the remember my choice checkbox and select yes.

Sources & References:

  • None

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Quids In - GnuCash: Another Windows Alternative

One of the great strengths of Windows is the excellent range of software that has been developed over the years. One of the fun things about switching to Linux is exploring some of the alternatives to those programs. I've blogged about a couple in the past (GSmartControl, i-Nex)

One of the things that I've only recently got around to searching for is an accounting package similar to Quicken (or, a very long time ago, Microsoft Money) and, as always, it was a simple task to find a free & open-source replacement: GnuCash.

GnuCash is a full-featured accounting package designed for small businesses and individuals:

"Designed to be easy to use, yet powerful and flexible, GnuCash allows you to track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses. As quick and intuitive to use as a checkbook register, it is based on professional accounting principles to ensure balanced books and accurate reports."

As with all accounting packages, it helps to have a basic grasp of accounting fundamentals (double-entry bookkeeping) in order to set up structured accounts, but the instruction manual can provide all the necessary guidance should you need help. It's also possible to import QIF & OFX data - a really useful feature if your bank allows you to download your statements in either of these formats: it can save an awful lot of typing when setting up the initial accounts!

gnucash main window
GnuCash Main Window

GnuCash is absolutely free and for Ubuntu-based distros can be downloaded and installed from the Software Center. For a more up-to-date version, download the source code from the GnuCash website where you may also be surprised to find downloads for Windows and Mac, so, not only is GnuCash free, it is also cross-platform!

Until recently I've been using a simple spreadsheet to keep track of my money (what little there is!) and to forecast cash flows - not any longer; from now on, I'll be using this powerful application.

Sources & References:

Monday, 19 May 2014

On Reflection... I Was Wrong!

Earlier in the week I was waxing lyrical about Lubuntu's potential to fill the void left by Windows XP. However, following George R R Martin's revelation that he still uses DOS to write, I've had cause to reconsider my position and, on reflection, I think that I was probably wrong.

In fact, I'll go further: I no longer think that any Linux distribution can or will replace XP.

Firstly, given some users proclivity for clinging to anachronistic operating systems at any cost (see the aforementioned Mr Martin), there will likely be little or no void to fill anyway. Consider also, that most casual pc users that are prepared to abandon XP have already bailed on the pc platform - the beige box in the corner, purchased ten years ago when XP was bleeding-edge technology, will finally be discarded when hardware failure or fatal virus strikes!

Yes, I know the statistics suggest that XP is still widely used to surf the Internet, but it's easier to do online banking on a PC than it is on your phone! When the beige box finally goes to the skip recycling centre, most users will bite the bullet & buy a Windows 8 laptop (or, more likely, an iPAD).

Nonetheless, let us suppose, for argument's sake, that there will be some users who will consider a Windows alternative, does anyone really think that many will actually adopt a Linux disto? The fact is that Linux is still too difficult for the average XP user to grapple with: it's hard enough trying to explain that you burn your own installation disc, explaining the importance of checking download hashes is most often met with a blank stare or worse, incredulity! Those still clinging to Windows XP aren't, as a rule, terribly interested in the technical details!

But, let's be charitable, and suppose that some will manage to burn an error-free Live Disc (a DVD or USB if their XP rig can manage such a feat), many older machines can be tricky with the most recent releases of Linux - hardware often won't work out-of-the-box: sound, graphics, & WIFI can be particularly vexing and then there's the software - Linux users understand the concept of proprietary codecs, Windows XP users (generally) don't! Windows users are accustomed to being spoilt - when they insert that multi-region DVD into the drive bay, they expect it to work, instantly. They certainly don't expect to have to make the hardware work first - imagine talking an XP user through the niceties of flash support for some of the stock browsers! Of course, newer machines mean fewer problems, but XP isn't being run on newer PC, it's being run on crappy old ones. So, let's not fool ourselves into believing that anyone is going to buy new hardware to run Linux: they'll buy new hardware to run a pre-installed copy of Windows 8.

But, these obstacles to Linux adoption pale into insignificance when it comes to security. Many (most?) XP users view the implementation of a password policy a major inconvenience and UAC as an outright impediment (which explains why Vista was such an unmitigated disaster) - I know quite a few users that still struggle with the concept of regular backups & running anti-virus software - trying to persuade them not to run their new system as Root for everyday purposes is going to be like stacking marbles. The problem is that most of those still using Windows XP regularly are technically illiterate and fail to understand that technology will never protect them from themselves: I am constantly amazed at how many Windows users (of all flavors) are carrying the resource & security burdens of unwanted toolbars, rogue programs, malware, and viruses.

Given the ease of simply purchasing a replacement, it seems to me unlikely that many (if any) WinXP users will convert to Linux. Even a free, state-of-the-art operating system won't tempt the legacy OS users: it's too late for that. Windows XP will eventually die, but I don't think its demise will make for pleasant viewing and it certainly won't be Linux that is the main beneficiary.

Sources & References:

Friday, 16 May 2014

Wallpaper of the Month - DELL DIMENSION 8400

OK, it's a cheap post, but I've been playing with the Dimension (again) and changed the OS to Mint 16. This is a stock wallpaper, but it's beautiful nonetheless! It's also nice to be playing around with Cairo Dock and Synaptic again.

As I'm on holiday this week, this reminds me of where I should be (on a mountain) - but, in my defence, at least I've submitted my tax return!

Sources & References:

  • None

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Lubuntu 14.04 - Installing Your System

Now that you've checked your installation disk for errors, it's time to install Linux Mint 16.

If it's not already in the drive, insert your installation disc and reboot your pc. Make sure that you have set your pc to boot from the optical drive before booting from the hard drive. As you did when checking the disc, you'll boot to the Lubuntu splash screen

Highlight the Install Lubuntu option & hit Enter.

You'll be prompted for your installation language: if your default language is not already highlighted, use the tab, space, & enter keys to find and select your preferred option.

Do the same to select your location on the following screen.

The next screen provides an opportunity to detect your keyboard layout: if you choose not to auto-detect your keyboard, you can change it in the following screen or after the installation is complete. Just Enter on the No option (highlighted).

Select your keyboard from the Configure Keyboard screen and hit Enter. The next screen will provide additional granularity to your input options.

Now the system will detect your hardware and prepare for the installation proper. Time for a cuppa!

After some time preparing the hardware, the installation will require some user input in order to authenticate the system and the user on any network. The first screen requires a hostname for the network. Most of us can just make something up here or go with the default setting. All that matters is that you can identify this machine on your network - so give it something obvious! Use the Tab button to highlight the Continue option and hit Enter

Next comes the user name and credentials. Full name & username do not have to be the same! You'll also be prompted for a password. Once the user information has been verified, you'll be prompted to decide on whether you want to encrypt your /home directory. For the sake of brevity, I'll select the No option: but you may want to consider this option carefully.

Confirm your time zone - the default should be correct.

Now we get into the more technical aspect of the installation - partitioning. I'm a big fan of partitioned drives and usually have a separate partition for my /home directory. However, as this is a test machine (and this tutorial is aimed at XP users) I'll opt for the Guided - use entire disk option.

There's the obligatory warnings (yes, two chances to say "no") of dire consequences of erasing your disc - be sure that you want to continue before hitting the Enter button. On the second screen, you'll have to select the Yes option before hitting Enter.

Now sit back and relax - your system is being installed!

If you need to establish proxy access to the Internet, the next screen will give you the option to add you details (obviously, I can't help with this!). Most of us can just carry on with the installation.

If you're overwriting an existing operating system or writing to a new drive you should select yes to the warning about the GRUB boot loader and then accept the default for UTC time.

Now you're done - remove the Live CD and reboot!

Sources & References:

  • None

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Lubuntu 14.04 - Checking Your Installation Disc

The first thing that you should do after you have created your Lubuntu Live CD/installation disc is to check it for defects. Errors can occur on the disc for several reasons, but the most common is through burning the disc at too high a speed.

"If the CD writing fails, try writing at a slower speed. For better results, try the slowest burn speed reasonably possible. Most Gui tools have a "Properties" button to select speed but with Brasero those sorts of options appear after pressing the 1st "burn" button. This is the single most likely cause of problems but is much more widely known than Md5sum/SHA error-checking. Slower speeds ensure greater accuracy."

Insert your installation disc into your optical drive and reboot your pc. Make sure that you have set your pc to boot from the optical drive before booting from the hard drive. If the disc fails to boot to the Lubuntu splash screen (and your pc boots from the hard drive as normal), you can assume that either the disc is corrupt or that you have not set your boot order correctly.

On reaching the Lubuntu splash screen, select the second option on the navigation menu, Check disc for defects and leave the utility to run.

It takes several minutes to check the disc, but, if all's well, you should see a Integrity test successful message dialog.

Click to return to the splash screen and you're ready to install the operating system.

Sources & References:

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Lubuntu 14.04 - Creating an Installation Disc

In April, Lubuntu announced that it was releasing the first LTS version of its lightweight flavor of Ubuntu. Its three-year support cycle takes 14.04 Trusty to 2017 & I thought I'd take a look at this latest offering.

In my view, Lubuntu has the potential to become an important operating system, particularly now that Microsoft has deprecated WinXP. Based on Ubuntu & deploying the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment (LXDE) as its default desktop, it is aimed firmly at "normal users" using "low-spec machines" - filling nicely the potential gap in the market left by XP.

"Lubuntu is targeted at "normal" PC and laptop users running on low-spec hardware. Such users may not know how to use command line tools, and in most cases they just don't have enough resources for all the bells and whistles of the "full-featured" mainstream distributions."

The obvious machine to test this on is my DELL Dimension 8400: it's ten-years-old and was designed to run XP. However, I'll be testing this on VirtualBox first in order to decide whether I want to roll it out to my stable of operating systems on a permanent basis.

First things first, download the ISO file from the Lubuntu Download page - if you want a previous version, go here - depending on your Internet connection this may take several minutes. Once downloaded, check the integrity of the download by comparing the MD5 hash with the published hash of your particular download. Don't worry too much about what an MD5 hash is, just be content to know that it is unique alphanumeric string for any given file, so if your download is exactly the same as the baseline file provided by Lubuntu (i.e. not corrupted or amended in any way) the two hashes will match.

How To Check Your MD5Sum Hash Using Ubuntu

Open a terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) and then navigate to your download location:

cd ~/Downloads

Note: your download may be in a different location; amend the code to suit.

Now create the MD5 hash with:

md5sum []

For example, using the 32-bit desktop version, my ISO file is called, lubuntu-14.04-desktop.i386.iso so my code looks like this:

md5sum lubuntu-14.04-desktop-i386.iso

It will take a moment for the system to generate the hash code, but, after a few seconds, you should see a long alphanumeric string followed by the name of your ISO file.

The easiest way to compare the generated & published hashes is to paste one above the other in your favourite text editor.

If you are using Windows, go here to find instructions on how to generate your MD5 Hash. If all's well, you're ready to create your Live Disk.

How To Burn Your Live CD Using Ubuntu

One of the advantages of this lightweight OS is that, whereas Ubuntu must be written to a DVD or USB drive, Lubuntu's ISO file is still small enough to burn to a CD.

Place a blank CD into your CD/DVD writer and close any prompt or automatic burning program (such as Brasero).

Using your file manager, navigate to your ISO file and right-click. Select the Write to disc... option.

In the resultant dialog, select the Properties button and set the Burning Speed to the lowest setting (this should minimize copying & burning errors). Click Close and then Burn to start the burning process. The disc should auto-eject when the process is complete.

Now your disc is ready to check, run a live desktop session, or install Lubuntu to your hard drive.

Sources & Resources:

Monday, 12 May 2014

(Another) Ubuntu 14.04LTS Keyboard Fix

Whilst browsing the Lubuntu Blog for installation issues, I came across a known bug in the keyboard layout for some languages (in particular, GB Eng) - reading the bug report suggests that this problem exists across all flavors of the Ubuntu 14.04 distribution.

If my previous suggestion on fixing your keyboard language doesn't work, there are a number of fixes in the bug report. As always, try the simple ones first & in this case, Branimir Butorac's post (26) put me on the right track for my Ubuntu installation on the DELL Inspiron 6400.

Open The settings Menu & select Language Support from the Personal settings. Under the Keyboard input method system, select none.

Reboot to check persistence.

Sources & References:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

DELL 6400 Integrated Card Reader & Ubuntu (sudo v gksu)

I've written on getting the integrated card reader to work on my Inspiron 6400 before. After changing/re-installing my operating system, this is one of those important/non-urgent jobs that gets done when I need to read a memory card (& usually not before!). However, I have noticed that the fix that I posted last July doesn't persist: that is, if I unmount a card, I can't (always) mount another without rebooting my laptop.

There's a good reason for this: I didn't understand that you should never launch a graphical application from the terminal using the sudo command.

"You should never use normal sudo to start graphical applications as Root. You should use gksudo (kdesudo on Kubuntu) to run such programs. gksudo sets HOME=~root, and copies .Xauthority to a tmp directory. This prevents files in your home directory becoming owned by Root. "

It seems that when running a graphical application via the sudo command, the application is granted root privilege but utilizes the users configuration file. Therefore, best practise dictates that, when opening graphical applications with administrator privilege, you should invoke the application using the gksu command.

So, I'm compelled to revise my advice for fixing the integrated card reader on the Inspiron 6400. Open a terminal & then:

gksu gedit /etc/modules

Instead of being prompted for your password in the terminal (as you would if you had invoked Gedit using sudo), a administrative dialog will appear requiring your authentication. Enter your password & click OK to open Gedit as root.

When Gedit opens, add the following code to the bottom of the file:


This is a better solution than the one posted last year but it is not completely effective (delayed unmounts will sometimes result in a return of the problem behaviour). However, maintaining focus on the file manager whilst swapping out cards generally displays fix persistence.

Sources & References:

Saturday, 10 May 2014

ufw - Letting Samba Play

In yesterday's post on security I mentioned that, if you share files on your network using Samba, you'll have to add some special rules to your firewall. Fear not, this is pretty easy!

Open a terminal and type the following commands pressing enter after each one.

sudo ufw allow proto udp from to any port 137

sudo ufw allow proto udp from to any port 138

sudo ufw allow proto tcp from to any port 139

sudo ufw allow proto tcp from to any port 445

You may not have the same address as the one used in the example code above - you can check your own ip address in your terminal (in Linux) using:

ifconfig -a

Find your (live) network connection from the list and identify the inet addr data and amend the above rules accordingly. As you add each new rule, the terminal will confirm that it has been added successfully. However, you can check the status of your firewall once all of the rules have been added with:

sudo ufw status

If all's gone well, you should see something like the screen below:

Remember, to access folders and files you'll need a Samba password on the server (you'll be prompted for your username & password when you try to access the files through your file manager). You can add a user and password from the terminal:

sudo smbpasswd -a [username]

Change [username] to suit your circumstances. You'll be prompted for you root password (if you're not already operating at elevated permissions) and then for a SMB password - this is the password that you'll use to access files from a client computer. Confirm your SMB password when prompted.

Reboot and you should be able to access files from a remote client. Remember, you will have to open these ports on any pc with ufw enabled if you want to share folders and files using Samba.

Sources & References:

Friday, 9 May 2014

So, 'Nix is Safe, Right?

There's always been a lot of debate about how safe Linux is from virus and hacking attacks: inevitably the discussion is distilled to a simplistic comparison between the distribution in question & Windows, but I usually find these comparisons to be unhelpful.

There's a lot of reasons that Windows is more susceptible to attack, not least it dominates the PC market, giving attackers a larger pool of potential victims. Moreover, viruses for 'nix are unheard of in the wild but, before we Linux users get too smug, that doesn't mean that we're impervious to attack! The reality is that all operating systems are vulnerable to some extent and vigilance is always recommended whatever system you choose.

The good news is that there are some very simple steps that new users can take in order to mitigate their exposure to attack. The first, and probably most important, is to choose a strong password. This mitigates the chance that an attacker can guess your password or use a dictionary attack to gain access to your system.

Another important action is to enable the bundled firewall, ufw. The firewall is not enabled by default in Ubuntu or its derivatives but it's easy to enable and, for most users, can be run using default settings1. Open a terminal & then:

sudo ufw enable

Provide your password at the prompt and hit enter. To check your firewall status, at the terminal prompt, type:

sudo ufw status

If all's gone well, you should see the output:

status: active

You may also see some additional rules (but only if you've customized your firewall).

Finally, don't forget to install security updates as soon as they become available: these patch your system and close vulnerabilities that attackers might exploit.

Ultimately, security relies on the user, but these simple tips can help keep your system (and your data) secure.

Sources & References:


    1 If you share files across a network, you'll need to add some firewall rules: more about that in another post but I've referenced guidance in the sources section.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Installing Linux - Mint

Hardware support notwithstanding, it's surprisingly easy to install Linux; I thought that you might like to see my recent (albeit, replicated) Mint installation:

First, load your Live Disk & reboot your PC. Make sure that your boot order is set to select your Live Disk (usb or DVD). Unlike Ubuntu (which offers a choice between a testing environment or immediate installation), the Linux Mint (Mate) installation disk delivers you straight to a Live Desktop.

Click the Install Linux Mint icon on the desktop to start the installation process.

The first step of the process is to select your preferred language:

The system will check to ensure an optimal installation state exists before starting the install.

Now you're asked what kind of installation you want to perform - I usually choose to partition my drive (the Something else option) but you can choose to install Linux alongside an existing OS (aka Dual Boot) or perform a straightforward installation on a single partition.

I partition my disk to have a root partition & a home partition (ignore the values, the screenshots come from a virtual installation) - you'll also need to save some space for swap.

Once you've chosen how to install Linux, you'll be prompted to choose your location.

Now select your keyboard. You can test your layout in the dialog box below the keyboard list but the default is usually sufficient.

Now for your user details & password.

The installation proper starts now - you can watch the slide show if you want, but I usually let the system get on with things.

Installation time will depend on how much oomph your system has but finally, you'll be prompted to restart (or continue testing): you'll be told when to remove the installation media.

Sources & References:

  • None

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Not So Headless Nick

A while ago, I hooked up my Aleutia Mini Atom PC to my Samsung TV. The experiment was not particularly successful as the Intel Atom D2700 processor is virtually unsupported by Linux and the best resolution I can manage is 1024 x 768 - not great on a 43" screen!

More trouble came with my preferred keyboard (a Logitech K400r), the wireless connection could be erratic and not all of the key presses made it to the screen - I'm sure that I don't need to tell you how frustrating that can be!

However, it was upgrading to Ubuntu 14.04 LTS that proved disastrous. The graphical interface was virtually unusable and the keyboard didn't connect at all. In defence of this setup, it was only ever intended to be used as a file server and never for use as a day-to-day machine: but, breaking it this badly required some repairs! My options seemed to be to revert to 12.04, explore a different OS or even, to install dedicated server software.

I've tried Mint before and I wondered if it's new MATE desktop might give me more support. So, I downloaded Mint 16 (code named, Petra & built on Saucy Salamander) and burned it to a DVD. I chose the MATE 32-bit with multimedia support and it ran beautifully from the Live Disk, so I bit the bullet and installed Mint 16 to the once headless PC.

The good news is that following installation, most of the hardware, including the keyboard ran at optimum levels and was definitely more responsive. The bad news is that the PC was stuck with a low resolution display and my bottom panel was missing! Fixing the missing panel was easy: opening terminal (Alt+F2) & then:


...gave me access to the Monitor Preferences dialog: here I just selected the Same image in all monitors option and my bottom panel reappeared.

I'll try fixing my resolution later, although I think that I'm probably stuck in low resolution mode for the rest of this machine's working life. Nonetheless, Mint is an absolutely beautiful OS and using it is a real blast from the past. I'll enjoy playing around with it for a week or two, but, as Petra's only supported until July 2014, I'll have to find a replacement soon.

Sources & References:

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Are Webapps All They're APPed Up To Be?

It may be me, but the whole concept of webapps is a little vague. Just saying that:

" It [webapps] will enable Ubuntu users to run online applications like Facebook, Twitter, Last.FM, Ebay and GMail direct from the desktop. Making web applications behave like their desktop counterparts improves the user experience dramatically; it's faster and it reduces the proliferation of browser tabs and windows that can quickly make a desktop unmanageable."

...doesn't really tell you much about what webapps are and what they do. Neither does there seem much enlightenment elsewhere on the Internet.

So, for the uninitiated, webapps are web pages that don't need a browser to run. The operating system treats these browserless web pages (almost) like any other application; for instance, you can tab through open apps, lock quick-launch icons to the Launcher, and use the HUD system to search them. So, if you want an application that logs you straight into your GMail or Twitter account without first having to start your browser, select your bookmark, and sign in - webapps are the perfect answer.

Webapps are certainly fast and accessible. They're great for posting those Twitter updates, rattling off a quick email, or editing web-based documents.

So far, so good. But (and it's a big but) this just moves the problem of browser tab proliferation from the browser to the desktop, so the claim that it makes web/desktop integration more manageable is moot. Moreover, the dearth of developed webapps hardly makes the concept of the web browser defunct. I use the word developed loosely: for example, whilst the GMail webapp gets you to your inbox quickly, when you get there, you can't click on hyperlinks in messages and there's no new mail notification integration on the Unity launcher. Suddenly, the promise of a dramatic improvement in speed and user experience, doesn't quite match the practise.

There's more trouble: whilst webapps play nice with Firefox, integration with Chromium (supposedly supported) doesn't work in 14.04 (at least, not for me!). If you want Chromium to be your default browser, you'll have to access your webapps from the Launcher, Dash, or message indicator on the top panel.


Reading between the lines, webapps are an artefact of convergence. Single application icons make sense on small form-factor devices where screen real estate and battery life are at a premium: after all, this is how iOS & Android mobile systems function already.

If true convergence is still an overarching strategy, it makes sense to focus development efforts on a single channel that crosses multiple platforms and if Canonical is serious about developing a mobile version of Ubuntu, this technology will be essential to its success.

Nonetheless, at the moment the desktop versions of these applications are rudimentary and it's not clear what, if any, development work is going on. Clearly, the current mobile OS are far more advanced than the Ubuntu webapps. That said, for q&d access to some of your favourite applications, webapps are a useful addition to the Ubuntu desktop.

Sources & Resources:

Monday, 5 May 2014

If You Don't Kill It, It Won't Die

Microsoft included XP users in its IE security update this week - this despite the (second) end-of-life date having passed.

"We made this exception based on the proximity to the end of support for Windows XP."

Notwithstanding Adrienne Hall's claims to the contrary, the real reason for this decision is more pragmatic: XP still accounts for the majority of Windows users in the wild. The fact that its customers refuse to abandon this defunct product must be utterly terrifying for the Redmond giant.

Anyway, I'm going a little further than CERT or ENISA and recommending that users abandon Windows altogether - Ubuntu 14.04 runs beautifully on machines designed and built for XP and Canonical has delivered a viable alternative. Surely the possibility of a genuinely secure operating system that costs nothing to install on existing hardware must be worthy of consideration.

Sources & References:

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Keeping Up With The Jones's

This week more than a couple of sites are reporting on the Firefox refresh, Australis. Both are also pointing out the similarities between this latest incarnation and a close rival; Google Chrome.

I've blogged before about preferring Chromium to Firefox and these reviews do nothing to persuade me that I'm wrong. Indeed, the only significant difference appears to be that the options menu in Firefox is now icon (rather than text) based: hardly, the height of innovation. Convergent, it seems, means emulating your competitors.

I may give it a look over the next few weeks, but it won't be at the top of my to do list.

Sources & References:

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Quick Tip - 14.04 Summoning the Keyboard Shortcut Splash Screen

Do you remember the shortcut splash screen that appeared on your desktop the first few times you booted into Ubuntu Trusty? After a while it no longer appears automatically, but you can summon it at any time by pressing & holding the super key (also called the Windows Key).

Sources & Resources:

  • None

Friday, 2 May 2014

Bluefish Sinking

I've indicated that I use Bluefish as my html markup editor. However, it's not stable in 14.04 and apparently this has been a problem since 13.04.

It's not catastrophic, but if it's not fixed soon I may revert to gedit.

Sources & References:

14.04 Replacing LibreOffice With OpenOffice

Recently I was asked to replace the bundled LibreOffice with OpenOffice on a vanilla install of Ubuntu 14.04. It's kind of tricky because you have to remove everything connected with LibreOffice before OpenOffice will install.

First, uninstall LibreOffice. I tried several methods but, in the end, the following was the only one that worked. Open a terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) & type:

sudo apt-get remove --purge libreoffice*.*

Download OpenOffice into your Downloads folder and then right-click on your download and click Extract Here. The resultant directory (/home/usr/Downloads/en-GB)* contains a sub-directory called, DEBS - change to this directory using the terminal:

cd /home/usr/Downloads/en-GB/DEBS

Now do:

sudo dpkg -i *.deb

Not quite finished: we need to integrate OpenOffice into the Ubuntu desktop. Change directory to the ./DEBS/desktop-integration folder:

cd ./desktop-integration

Now run the dpkg instruction again:

sudo dpkg -i *.deb

Now, exit the terminal and you should find OpenOffice in the dash.

Sources & References:


  1. * Where usr is your user name & en-GB is your installation file after extraction.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

14.04 Keyboard Conundrum Continued...

One little problem that has popped up since my upgrade to 14.04 is that the keyboard, despite being set to English UK, layout is not reflected in the keystrokes. This can be irritating when you press the hash (#) key and get a forward slash (/) symbol.

Fortunately, I've come across this problem before and the fix is satisfyingly easy! Open a terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) and type:

sudo setkeycodes 91 100


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